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Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, receiving Medal of Honour from Queen Sofia of Spain in Madrid on June 23

Abu Dhabi: Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, and founder and artistic director of Abu Dhabi Festival, has become the first Arab individual to receive the Medal of Honour, the highest distinction awarded by the Reina Sofía School of Music.

She received the award from Queen Sofia of Spain at the 2021-2022 Academic Year Closing Ceremony, which took place on Thursday, June 23 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.

The prestigious award is presented to individuals and institutions in recognition of their work in support of the development of music culture and education, as well as for their outstanding support to the school.

Alkhamis-Kanoo founded the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation in 1996 and Abu Dhabi Festival in 2004. She received the award in recognition of her dedication to inspiring young minds, promoting innovation in culture, and engaging communities in shared experiences to bring people together.

The ceremony opened with a speech by Paloma O’Shea, founder and current President of the Reina Sofía School of Music, and winner of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Festival Award for her outstanding lifetime support of classical music.

Tireless commitment

“I would like to dedicate all my accomplishments to Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation, whose unwavering support empowers women throughout the UAE. I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive this distinction from Her Majesty Queen Sofia and I am grateful to Paloma O’Shea for her tireless commitment to music education.

"In just 30 years, the Reina Sofia School of Music has reached a status on par with renowned international institutions as a world leader in music education. We are immensely proud to have collaborated with the School to support initiatives and opportunities like the first-ever European tour of its Freixenet Symphony Orchestra. To be awarded the Medal of Honour is a testament to ADMAF’s commitment to investing in creative potential and advocating for cultural diplomacy both at home and abroad,” Alkhamis-Kanoo said.

“I am impressed with the cultural promotion work that HE Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo has been carrying out for years. Through ADMAF and many other initiatives, she has turned Abu Dhabi into an international cultural reference point. She has my full admiration,” O’Shea said.

Benchmark instutition

“We are honoured to see Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo being recognised by the Reina Sofía School of Music, which has become a benchmark institution in the teaching and promotion of music. For many years now, Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo has been a crucial actor in the creation and development of cultural collaborations between the UAE and Spain, and we are grateful to Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain for granting [Alkhami-Kanoo] with this recognition to her work and friendship. I am certain that such renowned institutions will keep working together and bringing the people of our countries even closer,” Majid Al Suwaidi, UAE Ambassador to Spain.


The relationship between ADMAF and the Reina Sofía School of Music began in 2015 when the Foundation signed an agreement with the School during Alkhamis-Kanoo’s visit to the 18th Paloma O’Shea International Piano Competition in Santander, Spain to collaboratively support intercultural exchange through classical music and the performing arts. This allowed the UAE to become the first Arab country to participate in its activities.

In October 2021, the Reina Sofia School of Music’s Freixenet Orchestra toured Europe for the first time with ADMAF’s support. In 2017, Abu Dhabi Festival’s Recital Series also featured a concert by talented Spanish musician Juan Pérez Floristán, a graduate of the School.

30th anniversary

The 2021-2022 academic year marks the 30th anniversary of the Reina Sofía School of Music’s founding. The ceremony concluded with a concert by the School’s Freixenet Chamber Orchestra conducted by the award-winning classical pianist and conductor Sir András Schiff who, along with Her Excellency and Spanish Economist José María Álvarez-Pallete López, was also a recipient of the Medal of Honour.